USDA program helps land owners enhance sustainability

Applications for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service EQIP Organic Program are due January 18.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a non-regulatory agency that “offers voluntary programs to eligible landowners and agricultural producers to provide financial and technical assistance to help manage natural resources in a sustainable manner.”

The popular programs provide cost-share dollars for farmers to implement conservation practices. Farmers can work with NRCS personnel to “address natural resource concerns or opportunities to help save energy, improve soil, water, plant, air, animal and related resources on agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest land.”

The Environmental Quality Initiatives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative in particular focuses on certified organic operations or those looking to transition to organic production. According to the NRCS, a new organic provision targets organic producers and producers transitioning to organic production:

  • Assistance is for conservation practices related to organic production
  • Assistance is limited to $20,000 per year and $80,000 during a six year period
  • Producers are required to develop and carry out an Organic System Plan (OSP) or carry out practices consistent with an OSP

 Examples of eligible practices include: seasonal high tunnels, cover crops, conservation crop rotation, field borders, filter strips, windbreaks, mulching, pest management, prescribed grazing, composting facilities, and pasture and hayland planting to name a few.

For eligibility and answers to other frequently asked questions, access the FAQ document on the NRCS Organic Initiative online. For more specific information, contact Steve Law, EQIP Coordinator with the USDA NRCS or a Michigan State University Extension educator in your region.

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